Gender-related differences in the relationship between social and activity participation and health and subjective well-being in later life

Sarah Dury, Lara Stas, Lise Switsers, Daan Duppen, Joan Domenech Abella, Eva Dierckx, Liesbeth De Donder, D-SCOPE Consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


A growing body of work suggests that social and activity participation (SAP) may contribute to health and wellbeing.
Studies examining the effects of these activities largely focused on healthy older adults and older adults
with more resources, not on frail older adults. On the latter, there is a lack of information about which activities
contribute most and whether their effects vary between men and women given the gender-differentiated social
roles. To address these gaps we extracted longitudinal data from the D-SCOPE frailty program for 380 participants
aged 60 years or older residing in Belgium. Structural equation models tested the relationships between six
levels of SAP based on a taxonomy of social activities (Levasseur et al., 2010) – from level 1 (for oneself) to level
6 (for others) – on longitudinal changes in physical and mental deterioration, well-being, and gender differences
within these relationships. Results first show that older adults at risk of frailty benefit longitudinally from
participating in activities in terms of their physical deterioration and well-being. Second, socially oriented activities
were significantly associated with lower levels of physical deterioration and higher levels of subjective
well-being (SWB), and volunteering with higher levels of SWB. Heterogeneity of activities, regardless of level on
the taxonomy of social activities, seems to benefit SWB and counteract physical deterioration. Third, gender
differences were confirmed by two activities for women (alone, task-oriented) and three activities for men (alone,
being with others, task-oriented e.g. associational membership). Results imply that the activity itself may play a
more important role than the nature of social involvement and social interaction in relation to health and
Original languageEnglish
Article number113668
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2021


  • Social participation
  • Activities
  • Frailty
  • Health
  • Subjective well-being (SWB)
  • Gender
  • Longitudinal data
  • Structural equation modeling


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